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Natalia Bulekbayeva grew up in Kazakhstan, part of the former Soviet Union, and is now based out of the PwC headquarters in New York City. She is a Partner in M&A Tax where she helps clients understand the tax intricacies associated with deals. She’s also a mother of two and has a passion for tango dancing and travel.
Natalia grew up in Almaty, Kazakhstan, and moved to the US
to get her master’s degree. Natalia’s family is multicultural, with Kazakh and Russian cultures being prevalent. “I loved growing up in Kazakhstan. It’s a beautiful country filled with mountains and nature and it has certain simplicity to life that I find reassuring. People from Russia (or Soviet Union in general) tend not to mince words and are known for being direct and to the point. Maybe the harsh winters make us that way. I definitely have this trait for directness. In that regard, I am very much a Russian.”
Natalia got a master’s in law from the University of California at Berkeley. From there, she earned a second master’s degree, this time in taxation from New York University. “I knew from a young age that I wanted to have a career and was very driven to get a top-notch education. I chose to focus on taxation because it’s complex and I love a challenge. My favorite part is the problem solving. Finding a solution to a complicated tax issue or creating an efficient tax structure feels very rewarding. I am never bored at my job because I learn something new every single day. I’m a tax nerd and proud of it.”
Natalia lives in Queens, a borough in New York City that is filled with diversity. “Forest Hills, Queens, is a Russian community hub, so I can get my food from the Russian grocery down the street. It’s a great way to preserve my culture while living in the US. At the same time, I very much enjoy the multifaceted, multicultural experience that the city has to offer. New York is one of the few cities in the world where it is possible to have a world class cultural experience, whether it be restaurants, dance, theater or museums, every single day, and not run out of things to do for years. I try to make sure that my kids share our love for the city and introduce them to the amazing experiences that are readily available to its residents. I am taking my older daughter (age seven) to see her first “Swan Lake” next week. She attended her first ballet performance when she was four.”
Natalia is passionate about tango dancing. “I met my husband at a tango dance. We used to go dancing three to four times a week before we had kids and tango was the first dance at our wedding. The dance is a big part of who we are as a couple, fun loving and soulful at the same time. Real Argentine tango is never choreographed, it happens there and then when two people put their arms around each other. The male leads and the female follows, with no words being exchanged. There is a communication that happens on the physical level that creates an intense emotional connection.”
With a Russian mother and a Nicaraguan father, Natalia’s two young daughters are getting a global upbringing. “We speak three languages at home. I speak Russian, my husband speaks Spanish and we all speak English. Everyone just speaks their language and no one translates. Somehow, we all understand what’s going on. It’s very important to me to preserve my heritage. I love reading my childhood books in Russian to my daughters and I am a firm believer that language is a priceless gift we can give our children and an asset they will be able to use for the rest of their lives. I know the girls will benefit from being trilingual and having a broader understanding of other cultures.”
Being worldly people, Natalia and her family love to travel. “We go to Kazakhstan once a year to visit my family. My oldest daughter was only six months old when we took her to Russia for the first time. It’s not easy doing a 20-hour flight with a young child, but it’s worth it. We went to Croatia last summer and my husband and I love scuba diving in the Caribbean. We are avid adventurers and we aren’t afraid to travel with small children.”
With the recent tax reform passed by Congress at the end of 2017, there is a lot for tax advisors to digest. “The new tax law is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to be part of a drastic and extensive change in a US tax landscape. It was put together hastily, so numerous questions are coming up as people are working to apply the law. Tax nerds like me love this sort of thing. I have immersed myself in the changes and am working to help my clients understand how they will be impacted.”
Juggling the demands of being a mother and being a partner in a busy practice can be challenging. “Deals move fast and they keep moving no matter what’s going on in your personal life. But I’ve found a way to balance the career that I love with the family that I love. I have a rule that I will make it home to see my children every day. I can’t say I never break the rule, but most days I am home to tuck in my kids to bed and I work later if I need to. I feel I’m setting a good example for my daughters. I’m showing them that you can have an important career doing meaningful work and you can also be there for your family. It is very possible. You just have to create your priorities and set your boundaries.”